A saber-toothed tiger is an extinct predatory animal with long, curved saber-shaped canine teeth that protrude from the mouth when closed. From the Eocene period through the end of the Pleistocene period 42 million years ago (mya) – 11,000 years ago, saber-toothed tigers were present practically everywhere. 

The saber-toothed traits of distinct populations of saber-toothed tigers developed separately. They were particularly notable for having maxillary canines that extended down from the mouth when closed. Saber-toothed tigers were usually larger and more robust than modern tigers, with a bear-like physique. They are said to have been skilled hunters who hunted sloths, mammoths, and other huge game. Smilodon, like contemporary lions, was a gregarious carnivore, according to evidence uncovered in the La Brea Tar Pits. Non-mammalian synapsids, such as the gorgonopsids, were one of the earliest groups of animals within Synapsida to develop saber teeth, and many of them possessed lengthy canines. Some people had two pairs of upper canines, two on each side, but most people only had one pair of upper extreme canines. They are quite simple to distinguish from machairodonts due to their basic nature. A absence of a coronoid process, several sharp “premolars” that are more comparable to pegs than scissors, and exceptionally lengthy skulls are only a few of the distinguishing features.

The second time it appears is in Deltatheroida, a Cretaceous metatherian branch. Long canines were found in at least one species, Lotheridium, and given the clade’s predatory tendencies as well as the typically fragmentary material, this may have been a more common adaption.

Thylacosmilus, the most recognizable of the saber-tooth animals and the easiest to distinguish, is the third occurrence of long canines. It differs from machairodonts in that it has a noticeable flange and a triangular cross-section tooth. The canine root is more pronounced than in machairodonts, and there is no real sagittal crest.

The clade Oxyaenidae has the fourth occurrence of saber-teeth. The canines of the short and slender Machaeroides were thinner than those of the normal machairodont. It had a longer and thinner muzzle. The ancient feliform family Nimravidae makes its fifth saber-tooth appearance. Both groups have short skulls with tall sagittal crests and a fairly similar overall skull form. Some have noticeable flanges, while others don’t, further complicating the situation. Machairodonts, on the other hand, were almost invariably larger, with longer and stouter canines for the most part, though there were outliers.

The barbourofelids make their sixth appearance. These feliform carnivorans have a lot in common with cats. The namesake Barbourofelis is the best-known barbourofelid, with a significantly larger and more stout jaw, smaller orbits, huge and almost knobby flanges, and canines that are farther back than most machairodonts. The incisors of the normal machairodont were well-developed, but those of barbourofelids were more extreme.

The machairodonts were the seventh and final saber-toothed group to emerge.


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